Skip to main content

Jail contracts spark tussle

December 18, 2018 10:08 pm

Columbia-Greene Media

CATSKILL — A resolution to alter engineering contracts for the new county jail stirred things up at the Greene County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee meeting Monday.

A $39 million U.S. Department of Agriculture bond to build the new jail in Coxsackie was approved by the legislature on Sept. 19, with an amendment capping the number of beds at 80.

The former jail on West Bridge Street in Catskill was closed on April 20 after it was declared unsafe. The county received approval from the state Commission of Corrections for the proposed jail on Nov. 20, with strong recommendations to increase the size — particularly the female section, which has 16 beds.

Monday’s resolution, approved by a 10-1 vote with three absences, amended contracts with SMRT Architects and Engineers, The Pike Company and Delaware Engineering by adding dollar amounts at $655,271, $1,012,858 and $297,700, respectively.

Legislators Kevin Lewis, R-Greenville; William Lawrence, R-Cairo; Harry Lennon, D-Cairo; Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore; and Charles Martinez, R-Coxsackie; voted for the resolution.

Kevin Lennon, D-Catskill; voted against it. Legislators Lori Torgersen, D-Windham; and Aidan O’Connor Jr., D-Durham; were absent.

Catskill resident Scott Myers asked to address lawmakers on the matter.

Residents who wish to speak have to be introduced by a legislator from their district. Kevin Lennon allowed Myers five minutes to speak and advised him not to personally attack individual legislators in his comments.

“This $2 million should not be awarded,” Myers said. “These companies were paid $3 million already.”

When introducing the resolution, Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said the only thing changing is the language of the contracts.

“You [the legislature] previously approved these contracts,” he said. “We’re changing the language to meet the USDA qualifications. We’re not adding any money. The money spent is included.”

Myers criticized the lack of funding in the 2019 budget for new programs for alternatives to incarceration, as recommended to the board by the ATI Committee in September 2017.

Lawmakers did not eliminate funding for probation in the budget.

“A new jail without ATI is not justified,” Myers said. “Bill Lawrence did not attend the ATI meetings nor the architecture meetings. Neither did Matt Luvera or any legislator, really. I attended every one.”

Harry Lennon objected. “That’s not true,” he said, adding that both he and Lawrence attended several meetings.

“Don’t say we weren’t there — we were there,” he said.

Kevin Lennon objected to the legislators cutting into Myers’ time.

“Let him speak, and then you can counter,” Lennon said.

Lewis did not agree.

“That’s not why we’re here,” he replied.

Luvera also attended several meetings, he said.

Myers continued past the unrest.

“We do not have an honest needs assessment,” Myers said. “We denied the regional jail study, we denied the funding of the wholly responsible ATI as a standing committee to manage our social and noncourt services. We did not reform the horrific sheriff’s office, deemed the second worst in the state only above Riker’s, which is closing.

“We are already successfully using a regional jail solution — which we all know is perfectly legal — and meeting our security needs.”

Adding new ATI programs has been a hot topic for the legislature in the jail project discourse — especially over the last month as budget talks continued.

Both residents and lawmakers asked for funds to be set aside for new programs and positions to improve local criminal justice.

Torgersen attempted to secure funding for ATI by drafting an amendment that would allocate $330,000 for coordinator and case manager positions at $50,000 each and a support navigator position at $30,000. Additionally, the amendment allocated $200,000 for residential costs.

O’Connor proposed the amendment, drafted by Torgersen, at a Finance Committee meeting Nov. 19, but the amendment failed to get a second and did not make it into the 2019 budget, which was approved by the legislature Nov. 20.

Torgersen and O’Connor voiced their disappointment as they cast their votes against the budget.

Lawrence expects the issue will be revisited, he said in November.

“There’s no doubt we’ll look at this again next year,” Lawrence said. “This is not a dead issue — it’s just postponed.”

Comments
Lawrence is a proven practitioner of death by postponement.
Meanwhile this article should point out that the State recommendation is to 'double' the number of women cells by adding a whole new section or "pod" which brings the headcount up to 96. This seems crazy based on actual female prisoner counts.

Again, all this is a waste of money. We are spending less boarding out detainees to neighboring facilities that are properly designed and appropriately staffed.
When I read the impassioned and frustrated words of Scott Myers, I remind myself of the fact that Mr. Myers was the prolonged victim of abuse by Sheriff Seeley, and Spitz.

We have far too much police component in our local government, taxes, and capital structure. We have the State Troopers, the local Catskill and other town police forces, and then we have the Sheriff.

The Sheriff was recently exposed for the poorly disclosed extra money he takes in addition to his salary for a very questionable DWI Enforcement program that seems predisposed to favor abuses to the extent that such abuses would enrich the Sheriff on top of his salary. Such programs foster and plant the seeds of corruption.

Several national studies and scandal have exposed that drug dealer property appropriation programs that allow Sheriffs to claim $100,000 cars or even multi million dollar properties of alleged "ill gotten gains' into their budgets via those arrested for dealing drugs may also have had a corrupting influence on our local Sheriff over the years.

In general, law enforcement for profit incentive, no matter what it's guise or high purpose is a very bad and corrupting policy and idea.

If our Greene County Legislators Safety Committee was actually performing its job, instead of acting like a cheer leading section from a Trump rally, it would have been looking into such matters instead of forcing dissenting legislators to call for greater attention in the press. We have what smells like a corruption problem here in Greene County.

The first sign of corruption to me is secretive meetings, and suppressing the public's right to information and to be heard. I have witnessed both from Mssrs. Martinez, Seeley, and Lawrence along with their employees Mr. Groden and lawyer Kaplan in the behavior towards Scott Meyers, and so have scores of other Greene County voters. We've been shocked at the public displays and have on more than one occasion shamed Lawrence into allowing Mr. Meyers his voice.
Today the national government (Trump) passed Criminal Justice reform, but stupid little Greene County did the exact opposite.

We're rated 2nd worst offender in the state and continue that direction. WAKE UP GREENE COUNTY. NOW!!!

They refused to fund ATI (Alternatives To Incarceration) Failed to spend just $5,000 on a shared/regional jail study. Want to formalize $2 million hoping USDA will reimburse them (they won't). SMRT, Delaware and PIKE a) are NOT Greene County companies (neither is USDA who will receive the interest for 30 years) and b) abused the talented legislators - Torgerson, et. al.

They commissioned fake reports by RicciGreene, who lied about how many detainees we have 35 not 135! RicciGreene was fired once we discovered they had no raw data.

Without the money, or the justification, and rated 2nd worst in state, Greene County insists on BORROWING $39 million, taking $9 million from reserves (we have debt so there aren't any reserves), and spending $90 million (interest, operation, maintenance, interest for 30 years.. ) for human cages and staff that aren't justified and are not at all remedial. This is simply not acceptable. We don't have the money. This is just plain wrong.

The Greene County Legislators Luvera and Bill Lawrence did NOT attend ATI or Engineering meetings. They made cameos. I was at each and every hour of each and every meeting. Legislator Mike Bulich, to his credit, attended and argued effectively at the 2 engineering meetings with Pike, SMRT and Delaware. He knows the truth - this project is a disaster. The efforts to shave costs wholly failed! COC said OK but wants 88 not the confirmed 80 that Legislator Larry Gardner agreed.

USDA is evil. They fund the massive incarceration camps for blacks in the south, even refinancing private jails. It's completely disgusting!!! Wake Up GREENE COUNTY!!! Now!!! Here and NOW!!!

Administrator Groden's blocked 14 of my email addresses. I sued County Attorney Ed Kaplan for libel. When our local Supreme Court judge Fisher, a Judge Judy wanna be, biased my local politics cases, avoiding law, I forced her recusal.

Groden and Kaplan, who placated COC for 5 years (Kaplan said it's OK to harm detainees, Groden was sued for the same shit in Michigan). With Fisher's recusal they no longer have protection. I've moved on to the Albany courts with Article 78s... inter alia.

Groden doesn't want to let me speak. He says: "I accuse him of kickbacks" (from the same engineers now formally funded - in a loan that will not be given). Interestingly... Groden makes this comment. Is Groden taking kickbacks? It's typical in these situations. Greg Seeley has only one black Deputy. Only two female deputies. Lt. Tracy Quinn is likely his illegitimate daughter. Provide a DNA test if you disagree Greg Seeley - and stop being our sheriff, you're discusting.

To make the point, Tracy Quinn arrested her husband 3 times this year for spousal abuse. He's a state trouper. This is all disgusting.

Wake Up Greene County. Fire Jail Superindentent Michael Spitz yesterday. He triple dips. He ran the jail at 80 Bridge Street into the ground in a wet dream for a new torture center in Coxsackie. Greg Seeley wrote, justifying Spitz's triple dipping salary, that Spitz is essential in the new jail. The idiot designed this monster! Fire him NOW to avoid lawsuits that will saturate the insurance for tort cases. Fire him because Greg Seeley and Michael Spitz and Shaun Groden and Ed Kaplan perpetuate this insane sociopathy and are forcing us to pay for it FOR 30 YEARS!!!

This county sucks. 38% public employment is NOT sustainable. What's the defect? Here's a great example from Monday night. An "ethics" official was named, by Legislator Martinez, who's the source of most of the ethics violations of spending in Coxsackie. And, to make the point, he recused. WAKE UP GREENE COUNTY. There's no new money industry here, none. There's no plan for new money industry or tech here, none. No insight, no clue, no talent...

Treasurer Peter Markou gloats that we're in the best shape ever, but this is a lie. We have no hospital, no real college, and 38% public sector jobs. The economy will NOT improve. The Federal Reserve raised rates again. Wall Street is flat... no 401K increase. No economist predicts a better economy, which is even clearer in Greene County since there's no plan at all for new money industry or tech. Karl Heck is a staff member for the county and at a recent panel at Lumberyard acknowledged that the "creative economy" is achieving without county initiatives. He's right. What do the people at 411 Main Street do? They block ATI and spend on deputies and Sheriffs that are corrupt.

Fire Michael Spitz. Replace Greg Seeley - now. Fund and accredit ATI as a standing committee with authority over local social service and non-court services. NOW!

$90 million dollars for new human cages that are not at all justified... $39 as a loan, $9 from non-existent reserves (a $42 - $120 million mandate exists for county employees), operation and maintenance cost... for a new set of human cages that are not at all justified by ANY actual evaluation.

Jeff Friedman failed his role as GC Chamber President. He poled his members who only want a thorough accurate assessment. We didn't get it. ATI was rejected, the shared/regional jail study wasn't funded, RicciGreene Lied! Greg Seeley and his alcoholic predecessor Richard "Dick" Hussey are named 2nd worst offenders by COC. Really! We haven't touched reform of local justice. Even Trump began to get this right. We can't. Pathetic.

For reference, and to make the point we're off track: From today's national story: "Senate passes a sweeping criminal justice bill"

Lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the most substantial changes in a generation to laws that have ballooned the federal prison population and created a criminal justice system that many conservatives and liberals alike view as costly and unfair.

The details: The First Step Act would expand job training and other programs aimed at reducing recidivism among federal prisoners. It would also expand early-release programs and modify sentencing laws, including mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
What’s next: House leaders have pledged to pass the measure this week, and President Trump has said he would sign the bill."

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/18/us/politics/senate-criminal-justice-bill.html